While the late-match heroics involved in Orlando City's 2-2 draw against Real Salt Lake on Sunday made the tie feel more like a win, the euphoric comeback from the Lions cannot cover up the fact that – as was the case a number of times in 2015 – OCSC was the more dangerous side but failed to convert on many of the chances it created.
Speaking to the media on Monday, the man who provided the majestic long ball that would ultimately lead to the game-tying goal from Adrian Winter, Servando Carrasco, lamented that fact.
"I thought overall we created a bunch of chances," Carrasco said. "You look back at the game and we had [almost] 40 crosses, we had 12 corners, so we were definitely dangerous, but again, we made two mistakes and we've got to clean that up."
The Lions were punished for a pair of mistakes that led to two Joao Plata goals, but with better end product in the final third City could have spotted RSL the two goals and still taken three points from the fixture. The Lions owned advantages in possession, passing, crosses, corners, shots and shots on target, but came away level with Real. Throughout the match, Cyle Larin – who was stoned on a one-v-one by Nick Rimando – as well as Brek Shea, Pedro Ribeiro and Hadji Barry all had chances that they either failed to put on frame or saw stopped by Rimando.
It was eerily reminiscent of so many times last season when the Lions were on the front foot attacking and controlling matches only to see points stolen away from them due to a lack of finishing. While Larin was unlucky to have a goal negated due to an offside call and no player can be expected to make more shots than he misses, the creativity and industry is there in build-up play to make the Lions' attack a prolific one with a slight improvement in end product.
The back line Orlando will face on Friday evening seems like an opportune unit to improve in the area.
The Fire conceded 20 shots to New York City FC last week in its 4-3 defeat, 10 of which were put on target. The defense that leaked a league-high 58 goals last season picked up where it left off. Matt Lampson came up with six saves for Chicago but was still lit up for four goals, meaning the Lions should be licking their lips heading into this match, especially with the game being played at home once again.
The Lions ultimately came up with quality finishes when they needed them most in stoppage time, with Larin and Winter turning in clinical final touches. A one-game sample size is also too small to definitively say if this will be an issue that carries over from the 2015 season, but a killer instinct in front of goal would be very reassuring to see on Friday night in a match that the Lions need to win.
Coming away with anything less than four points against RSL and Chicago – two teams that finished below OCSC a year ago – would be a disappointing start to the campaign.